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As we head for the cliff, Congress throws Corzine a lifeline

Republican PartyJon CorzineSundance Film FestivalButch CassidyGoldman Sachs Group, Inc.Democratic Party

In case anyone missed the news — and judging by the fact that there aren't angry mobs storming Washington, everyone missed the news — Congress recently absolved Jon Corzine of being criminally responsible for actions that "wiped out thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of customers' and creditors' money."

The congressional report states, "Choices made by Jon Corzine during his tenure as chairman and CEO sealed MF Global's fate." Turns out, these choices include the unlawful transfer of its customers' money. Oh well. We all make mistakes.

This statement of responsibility, which carries no punishment, comes from the same institution we're expecting to steer us away from a series of fiscal measures so extreme that neither party would be able to stomach their implementation. Good luck with that.

You'd think in this time of outrage against "too big to fail" institutions, members of Congress would be lining up to take their shots at Mr. Corzine, a former CEO of Goldman Sachs and poster child for crony entitlement. You'd also be vastly disappointed.

Republicans got first shot at Mr. Corzine. In an audacious statement of the obvious, GOP Rep. Randy Neugebauer of Texas stated, "We found that Jon Corzine contributed greatly to the demise of this company. … There was a breakdown in communication in the regulatory community." And of course, neither of the above is considered a criminal offense, until you couple it with the $1.6 billion shortfall (i.e., vanishing into thin air) of customer funds.

To date, the money is still unaccounted for. Thousands with MF Global lost their jobs and reputations. All the while, Mr. Corzine, a major contributor to the Obama campaign, maintains a net worth estimated to be in excess of Mitt Romney's by $50 million to $150 million.

Was Mr. Corzine, a former Democratic governor of New Jersey, attacked by the GOP for political reasons? Democratic Rep. Mike Capuano of Massachusetts wrote in an email statement, "While I agree with a number of the report's observations and recommendations, others require additional commentary." Ever the champions of fiscal fairness, he added, "Democrats are preparing an addendum."

Either this is going to be the most powerful addendum ever written, or it will be a cross-aisle tempest in a teapot — full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Then again, after Congress' inability to locate any wrongdoing following the subprime debacle, this inaction should come as no surprise. The members of Congress have an almost magical gift for "see no evil" when it comes to too-big-to-fail campaign contributors.

The Associated Press reports that "much of the missing money belonged to farmers, ranchers and other business owners" who were looking to protect their farms, ranches and businesses from financial losses resulting from natural price fluctuations. Turns out, it was the protectors that they needed protection from. Had they simply put in a few years at Goldman Sachs and then a little glad-handing with the political elite, they could have simply been absolved of their losses. Like Mr. Corzine.

The next time you hear a member of Congress start to lecture us on the need for economic fairness, ask yourself how any institution that oversees a farce of this magnitude can use the word with a straight face. This is the same institution that we're counting on to steer us away from the fiscal cliff? I wouldn't hold out hope.

There's a scene in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" where the two outlaws are backed into a position where they have to jump off a cliff and into a river, or face certain death at the hands of their pursuers. As they stare at the drop, and the water below, the Sundance Kid confesses that he can't swim. Butch Cassidy assuages his fear of drowning by pointing out, "The fall will probably kill you."

Democrats and Republicans are busy arguing over who can deliver a harder slap on the wrist. Meanwhile, it's the fall that will kill you. Unless your name happens to be Corzine — in which case, you're too-big-to-fall.

Dan Reed is a registered Libertarian living in Baltimore. His email is danthereed@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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